In The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer, Eric Tran contends with the aftermath of a close friend’s suicide while he simultaneously explores the complexities of being a gay man of color. Grief opens into unraveling circles of inquiry as Tran reflects on the loss of his friend and of their shared identity as gay Asian American men. Through mourning and acute observations, these poems consider how those who experience marginalization, the poet included, may live and fall victim to tragedy. Tran explores how his life, even while in the company of desire and the pursuit of freedom, is never far from danger. Like grief that makes the whole world seem strange, Tran’s poetry merges into fantasy lands and rides the lines between imagined worlds and the reality of inescapable loss. At the intersection of queerness, loss, and desire, Tran uses current events, such as the Pulse nightclub tragedy, pop culture references, and comic book allusions to create a unique and textured poetry debut. He employs an unexpected pairing of prayer and fantasy allowing readers to imagine a world of queer joy and explore how grief can feel otherworldly. This collection shows a poet learning how to be afraid, to feel lost, to grieve, and to build a life amid precarious circumstances. The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer was the winner of the Autumn House Rising Writers Prize in 2019.
About the Author
Eric Tran is a resident physician in psychiatry in Asheville, North Carolina. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Four Way Review, and many others.
"Tran addresses the loss of a friend through meditations on art, pop culture, and identity in his vibrant debut. . . . Readers will find that these complex and contradicting qualities are enacted in the collection itself." — Publishers Weekly
"In the poem, 'Pulse,' Eric Tran describes the 'Rapture and rupture, / every sizzled bead / of black sweat / spit swollen out / our skin.' Every poem in this collection is a relentless examination of 'rapture and rupture,' an intricate and tender inquisition into the boundless motion of desire and grief, the wanting and breaking. In poem after poem, The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer offers us a politics of nuance, the inextricable realities of identity and body as they collide with an often beautiful and terrible world. The poems let every light into them, as Tran compels us to 'want it in public / loud and bold so walls / remember our scent.'"
— Stacey Waite, author of Butch Geography
"These poems, with their restless forms and lexicons, needle themselves through the psyche; they suture and sear, harboring speakers of myriad aftermaths. True to a physician’s gaze, Tran's gaze, in its unflinching obsession with the renewal and failure of bodies—both tender and visceral—expose and heal at once. They hold large themes like grief, friendship, love, and inheritance against the luminous light of the mundane, declaring, with bold tenderness, that to keep the world we love well is to dismantle its hierarchies through language, and to live at the seat of feeling by embodying the possibilities of wonder. Bravo, Eric."
— Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
"Tran is a poet with uncommon superpowers. 'I don’t mean / escape, but more like / stars flamboyant in the black / mouth of night' he writes. And when his poems turn to realm of comic books, it’s never about 'escape.' Instead, it’s a powerful effort to manage and navigate intense, personal grief. The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer is a tremendous debut—one that reaches through despair to offer us something sacred. "
— Matthew Olzmann, author of Contradictions in the Design